by Mitchell Brown, Reporter
The Melvins, throughout their existence as a band have never been conventional.
1986 saw the release of Slayer’s “Reign in Blood.” With thrash metal and hardcore, louder and faster became a mantra. The same year, the Melvins released their first EP, six songs that went in the opposite direction. Instead of speeding up, Melvins slowed it down to a lurching, crawling, heavy, dirge like pace. The sound they pioneered was inspired by both Black Flag and Black Sabbath.
The sounds of the Melvins was crucial to the emergence of what was labeled as grunge, as well as later influencing sludge metal and doom metal. A line of sonic connection can be drawn between Black Flag’s “My War” album and the Melvins.
The Melvins drew upon such influences and added their own unique auditory crunch. The Melvins’ sound felt like the musical equivalent of a power drill, searing through your temple, with the guttural vocals and lacerating guitar riffs of Buzz Osborne and the ham-fisted, thunderclap drumming of Dale Crover.
I found out about The Melvins in the ’90s because of their connection to Nirvana. I read the Nirvana biography “Come as You Are.” (by Michael Azerrad) Melvins mentions were ubiquitous throughout the book. My curiosity was piqued.
Shortly after, I started getting into their music – “Houdini,” “Stoner Witch,” the “10 Songs” CD and the “With Yo’ Heart, Not Yo’ Hands” 7 inch record. It was good stuff, but as time went by, I just stopped buying their music, yet I would still occasionally throw on the “Houdini” CD.
Seeing that “Pinkus Abortion Technician” was offered for review, I thought I would gladly give it a listen. Upon first listen, I was in a state of shock. What I was hearing sounded nothing like the Melvins material I was rocking out to in middle school. This album differs from the previous work in that it was recorded with two bass players, Steven McDonald, of Red Kross and OFF!, and Jeff Pinkus, of the Butthole Surfers.
Melvins went through bass players like how Black Flag or Spinal Tap went through drummers.
The addition of Pinkus and McDonald is an example of how adding ingredients in the form of members can alter a band’s sound. With the addition of just one member from the Butthole Surfers, “Pinkus Abortion Technician” takes on a sonic similarity closer to the Butthole Surfers.
Grueling, oatmeal-thick riffs are not the centerpiece feature on the album. Instead, placed front and center is a large amount of experimental-like guitar noodling, melding into something similar to the punk/blues/psychedelic freakouts of the Butthole Surfers. Another difference is that Buzz Osborne’s vocals are not the dominant vocals in most of these songs. Those of Pinkus and McDonald are, which are more melodious and closer to more common rock vocals.
Upon first listen, I was wondering if this was a Melvins record, as I was sent a digital version.
The opening track “Stop Moving to Florida” is a giant curve ball. It starts off with melodic, yet slightly aggression-tinged, vocals conjoined with ripping riffs and note bending leads. Then halfway through, the track slumps over and mutates into something else entirely, the vocals of Buzz Osborne ranting in a stream of consciousness form, then the band launches into heavy marching paced bass and drums locked into air-tight synchronicity, thumping away, then switching back to just vocals again.
“Pinkus Abortion Technician” consists of only eight songs. When I play this release, I often end up skipping around on the disc, instead of listening all the way through. Two tracks in particularly I keep coming back to are “Graveyard,” a Butthole Surfers cover, and “Prenup Butter”
“Prenup Butter” has the elements of the force and fortitude that resembles the Melvins I remember, a churning, blasting guitar sound combined with a backbeat that hits like an auditory napalm attack.
This album isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination – it’s just a deviation from what I’ve heard from them in the past, but this band has never walked a conventional path.
“Pinkus Abortion Technician” is available in most digital formats and on CD and vinyl. Listen to the album via Spotify below: